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OAK@LAA: Blevins earns save with tying run on third

ANAHEIM -- Jerry Blevins was understandably disappointed.

The A's reliever deserved a taste of that whipped cream so many of his other teammates have been pied with on a night like this, one "that even trumps my debut," he said.

But Blevins, after stranding runners at the corners with no outs in a one-run game against the Angels for a thrilling 6-5 A's victory on Tuesday, ultimately celebrated his first save of the season without it.

"I was half-expecting it when I was doing the TV," Blevins said. "I came in and first thing I said was, 'Where's my pie?' It was the perfect moment for a pitcher to get a little love."

Still, Blevins was beaming. And why not? Baseball should start thinking of a new kind of save stat after what the 29-year-old did to keep the surging A's in the win column. Even manager Bob Melvin was speechless.

"Boy, that was," he began, before pausing. "You talk about Houdini ..."

Talk about wild. Melvin's club entered the bottom of the ninth with a 6-3 lead, having picked up two insurance runs in the top half of the frame. Enter Grant Balfour, who had converted saves in each of his last 10 opportunities.

Balfour didn't have it, though. Not this time. He walked Chris Iannetta and Mike Trout to begin the inning, albeit on some questionable calls, and proceeded to offer up back-to-back singles to Torii Hunter and Albert Pujols to narrow his team's lead to one.

There runners stood on the corners, with no outs, and Balfour -- having thrown his 22nd and last pitch of the night and 52nd in the last three days -- walking off the mound, with the left-handed Blevins in to attempt what seemed like the impossible. Back in the bullpen sat Ryan Cook, unavailable on this night.

Kendrys Morales stepped to the plate and, four pitches later, was making the trek back to the dugout on a swinging strikeout. It was Howie Kendrick's turn.

"George [Kottaras] kept calling a fastball in and that's the way I thought we'd get that ground ball, and Kendrick is a line-drive hitter, so you just have to get it in there a little bit."

Blevins did, inducing a sharp grounder straight at third baseman Josh Donaldson, who initiated the game-ending double play with a swift throw to second baseman Cliff Pennington that easily made its way in time to Brandon Moss at first base for the win and Blevins' second career save.

It wasn't a walk-off victory, but it may as well have been.

"Absolutely. So far in my career, that's my biggest moment and most exciting," Blevins said. "I felt pure elation. That was one of the loudest screams I think I've ever given on the baseball field."

"With no out there? I don't think it can be much tougher," Balfour said. "First and third, none out and the tying run right there, that's a tough situation, about as hard as it gets, and he did it perfectly."

The A's have clearly shown a flare for the dramatic this year, and this chapter of their storybook season was something of a miracle in the baseball circles, helping them lock down the second of a crucial four-game set that also marked their 11th straight road victory -- the longest streak in Oakland history since April 9-26, 1981.

Oakland has won five straight since dropping three in a row to the Halos in its home park last week, and its climb above .500 keeps reaching new heights, now a season-high 21-game spread. Meanwhile, in the American League West, the A's remain three games back of the first-place Rangers, who also won Tuesday night.

Aiding in the cause was Moss, who has provided quite the boost for a once-anemic A's offense that was lacking production from the first-base position. On Tuesday, in just his 200th at-bat with the A's this season, Moss hit his 18th home run, a two-run shot in the fourth. It was the 28-year-old journeyman's second in as many days and fifth in his last 12 contests.

"It's pretty amazing when he gets on a roll," Melvin said. "We've seen him do some streaky things, some crazy things, in a short period of time. When he's feeling good about himself, he hits the ball out of the ballpark, that's what he does."

Moss wasn't the only one to send one out of the park. Yoenis Cespedes, who entered the game mired in a 21-game homerless stretch, also connected from the designated hitter spot, his solo shot in the second inning off Angels starter Jerome Williams placing the A's on the board first.

Holding his own on the mound was righty Dan Straily, making his first start in eight days and first with the A's since Aug. 16. Summoned to take the rotation spot of the recovering Brandon McCarthy, who underwent emergency brain surgery last week after taking a line drive to his head, Straily gave the A's 6 2/3 innings of work, despite early struggles that had Melvin calling for action in the bullpen as early as the second frame.

The right-hander, one of four rookies in Oakland's rotation, was prone to the long ball in his last start vs. the Angels on Aug. 8, giving up four homers that day. This time around, he gave up two, the first a two-run shot to Vernon Wells in the second and the other a solo shot to Hunter in the seventh that led to his departure. In between, he was superb, and by night's end he had fanned eight.

"I looked over my shoulder at one point and saw someone throwing in the bullpen," Straily said, "and just made sure I was not going to be embarrassed again against these guys."

Blevins made sure no one was.

"That was quite a performance," Melvin said. "He's kind of been the unsung hero for us this year."

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